Review of Philosophy and Psychology

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 313–341 | Cite as

Perspective and Epistemic State Ascriptions

  • Markus KneerEmail author


This article explores whether perspective taking has an impact on the ascription of epistemic states. To do so, a new method is introduced which incites participants to imagine themselves in the position of the protagonist of a short vignette and to judge from her perspective. In a series of experiments (total N=1980), perspective proves to have a significant impact on belief ascriptions, but not on knowledge ascriptions. For belief, perspective is further found to moderate the epistemic side-effect effect significantly. It is hypothesized that the surprising findings are driven by the special epistemic authority we enjoy in assessing our own belief states, which does not extend to the assessment of our own knowledge states.



Thanks to Mark Alfano, James Beebe, Wesley Buckwalter, Quassim Cassam, Florian Cova, Simon Cullen, Stefanie Kneer, Edouard Machery, Barry Maguire, Blake Myers-Schulz, Obioma Ofoego, Brian Robinson, David Rose, John Turri and three anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments. I am particularly grateful to Joshua Knobe and Brent Strickland for very helpful feedback.


  1. Alexander, J., and J.M. Weinberg. 2007. Analytic epistemology and experimental philosophy. Philosophy Compass 2 (1): 56–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alfano, M., J.R. Beebe, and B. Robinson. 2012. The centrality of belief and reflection in Knobe-effect cases: A unified account of the data. The Monist 95 (2): 264–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Batson, C.D., J.H. Eklund, V.L. Chermok, J.L. Hoyt, and B.G. Ortiz. 2007. An additional antecedent of empathic concern: Valuing the welfare of the person in need. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 93 (1): 65–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beebe, J.R. 2013. A Knobe effect for belief ascriptions. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 4 (2): 235–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beebe, J.R. 2016. Evaluative effects on knowledge attributions. In A Companion to Experimental Philosophy, ed. J. Sytsma and W. Buckwalter. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  6. Beebe, J.R., and W. Buckwalter. 2010. The epistemic side-effect effect. Mind & Language 25 (4): 474–498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beebe, J.R., and M. Jensen. 2012. Surprising connections between knowledge and action: The robustness of the epistemic side-effect effect. Philosophical Psychology 25 (5): 689–715.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Beebe, J.R., and J. Shea. 2013. Gettierized Knobe Effects. Episteme 10 (3): 219–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Blaine, B., and J. Crocker. 1993. Self-esteem and self-serving biases in reactions to positive and negative events: An integrative review. In Self-esteem: The Puzzle of low Self-regard, ed. R. Baumeister, 55–85. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  10. BonJour, L. 2009. Epistemology: Classic Problems and Contemporary Responses. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
  11. Buckwalter, W. 2012. Non-traditional factors in judgments about knowledge. Philosophy Compass 7 (4): 278–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Buckwalter, W. 2014. Gettier made ESEE. Philosophical Psychology 27 (3): 368–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Buckwalter, W., D. Rose, and J. Turri. 2015. Belief through thick and thin. Noûs 49 (4): 748–775.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Byrne, A. 2005. Introspection. Philosophical Topics 33 (1): 79–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Byrne, A. 2011. Knowing that I am thinking. In Self-knowledge, ed. A. Hatzimoysis, 105–124. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cassam, Q. 1997. Self and World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Cassam, Q. 2011. Knowing what you believe. In Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Vol. 111, part 1: 1–23.Google Scholar
  18. Cassam, Q. 2014. Self-knowledge for Humans. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Cialdini, R.B., S.L. Brown, B.P. Lewis, C. Luce, and S.L. Neuberg. 1997. Reinterpreting the empathy–altruism relationship: When one into one equals oneness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 73 (3): 481–494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cohen, J. 2013. Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. Cova, F. 2016. The folk concept of intentional action. In A Companion to Experimental Philosophy, eds. J. Sytsma and W. Buckwalter. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  22. Cova, F., and H. Naar. 2012. Side-effect effect without side effects: The pervasive impact of moral considerations on judgments of intentionality. Philosophical Psychology 25 (6): 837–854.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Dalbauer, N., and A. Hergovich. 2013. Is what is worse more likely?—The probabilistic explanation of the epistemic side-effect effect. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 4 (4): 639–657.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Dretske, F. 1994. Introspection. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 94: 263–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Duff, A. 1980. Intention, Mens Rea and the law commission report. Criminal Law Review: 147–160.Google Scholar
  26. Duff, A. 1982. Intention, responsibility and double effect. The Philosophical Quarterly 32: 1–16.Google Scholar
  27. Duff, A. 1989. Intentions legal and philosophical. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 9: 76–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Epley, N., E. Caruso, and M.H. Bazerman. 2006. When perspective taking increases taking: Reactive egoism in social interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 91 (5): 872–889.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Faul, F., E. Erdfelder, A. Buchner, and A.-G. Lang. 2009. Statistical power analyses using G* power 3.1: Tests for correlation and regression analyses. Behavior Research Methods 41 (4): 1149–1160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Feldman, R. 2006. Epistemology. London: Pearson.Google Scholar
  31. Feltz, A. 2007. The Knobe effect: A brief overview. Journal of Mind and Behavior 28 (3/4): 265–277.Google Scholar
  32. Feltz, A., M. Harris, and A. Perez. 2012. Perspective in intentional action attribution. Philosophical Psychology 25 (5): 673–687.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Fernandez-Duque, D., and T. Wifall. 2007. Actor/observer asymmetry in risky decision making. Judgment and Decision making 2 (1): 1–8.Google Scholar
  34. Galinsky, A.D., and G.B. Moskowitz. 2000. Perspective-taking: Decreasing stereotype expression, stereotype accessibility, and in-group favoritism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 78 (4): 708–724.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Galinsky, A.D., G. Ku, and C.S. Wang. 2005. Perspective-taking and self-other overlap: Fostering social bonds and facilitating social coordination. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations 8 (2): 109–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Galinsky, A.D., W.W. Maddux, D. Gilin, and J.B. White. 2008. Why it pays to get inside the head of your opponent: The differential effects of perspective taking and empathy in negotiations. Psychological Science 19 (4): 378–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Gertler, B. 2010. Self-knowledge. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  38. Harman, G. 1976. Practical reasoning. The Review of Metaphysics 29 (3): 431–463.Google Scholar
  39. Holton, R. 2010. Norms and the Knobe effect. Analysis 70 (3): 417–424.Google Scholar
  40. Jones, E.E., and R.E. Nisbett. 1971. The actor and the observer: Divergent perceptions of the causes of behavior. In Attribution: Perceiving the Causes of Behavior, eds. E.E. Jones et al. Morristown: General Learning Press.Google Scholar
  41. Kauppinen, A. 2007. The rise and fall of experimental philosophy. Philosophical Explorations 10 (2): 95–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kneer, M., and S. Bourgeois-Gironde. 2017a. Attribution de mens rea: Données empiriques. In Causalité, Responsabilité et Contribution à la Dette, eds. S. Ferrey and F. G'Sell. Brussels: Editions Bruylant. (Forthcoming).Google Scholar
  43. Kneer, M., and S. Bourgeois-Gironde, S. 2017b. Mens rea ascriptions, expertise and outcome effects: Professional judges surveyed. Cognition 169: 139–146.Google Scholar
  44. Knobe, J. 2003a. Intentional action and side effects in ordinary language. Analysis 63 (3): 190–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Knobe, J. 2003b. Intentional action in folk psychology: An experimental investigation. Philosophical Psychology 16 (2): 309–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Knobe, J. 2004a. Folk psychology and folk morality: Response to critics. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology 24 (2): 270–279.Google Scholar
  47. Knobe, J. 2004b. Intention, intentional action and moral considerations. Analysis 64 (2): 181–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Knobe, J., and A. Burra. 2006. The folk concepts of intention and intentional action: A cross-cultural study. Journal of Cognition and Culture 6 (1): 113–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Knobe, J., and B.F. Malle. 2002. Self and other in the explanation of behavior: 30 Years later. Psychologica Belgica 42 (1/2): 113–130.Google Scholar
  50. Knobe, J., and G.S. Mendlow. 2004. The good, the bad and the blameworthy: Understanding the role of evaluative reasoning in folk psychology. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology 24 (2): 252–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Laurent, S.M., and M.W. Myers. 2011. I know you're me, but who am I? Perspective taking and seeing the other in the self. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 47 (6): 1316–1319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Lehrer, K. 2015. Theory of knowledge. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  53. Leslie, A.M., J. Knobe, and A. Cohen. 2006. Acting intentionally and the side-effect effect theory of mind and moral judgment. Psychological Science 17 (5): 421–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Lombrozo, T., and K. Uttich. 2010. Putting normativity in its proper place. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33 (4): 344–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Ludwig, K. 2007. The epistemology of thought experiments: First person versus third person approaches. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 31 (1): 128–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Malle, B.F. 2006. The actor-observer asymmetry in attribution: A (surprising) meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin 132 (6): 895–919.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Malle, B.F., J.M. Knobe, and S.E. Nelson. 2007. Actor-observer asymmetries in explanations of behavior: New answers to an old question. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 93 (4): 491–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Maner, J.K., C.L. Luce, S.L. Neuberg, R.B. Cialdini, S. Brown, and B.J. Sagarin. 2002. The effects of perspective taking on motivations for helping: Still no evidence for altruism. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 28 (11): 1601–1610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. McCullough, M.E., E.L. Worthington Jr., and K.C. Rachal. 1997. Interpersonal forgiving in close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 73 (2): 321–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Mele, A.R., and F. Cushman. 2007. Intentional action, folk judgments, and stories: Sorting things out. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 31 (1): 184–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Mezulis, A.H., L.Y. Abramson, J.S. Hyde, and B.L. Hankin. 2004. Is there a universal positivity bias in attributions? A meta-analytic review of individual, developmental, and cultural differences in the self-serving attributional bias. Psychological Bulletin 130 (5): 711–747.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Moore, M.S. 2011. Intention as a marker of moral culpability and legal punishability. In Philosophical Foundations of Criminal Law, eds. A. Duff and S.P. Green. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  63. Murray, D., J. Sytsma, and J. Livengood. 2013. God knows (but does god believe?). Philosophical Studies 166 (1): 83–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Myers-Schulz, B., and E. Schwitzgebel. 2013. Knowing that P without believing that P. Noûs 47 (2): 371–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Nadelhoffer, T., and A. Feltz. 2008. The actor–observer bias and moral intuitions: Adding fuel to Sinnott-Armstrong’s fire. Neuroethics 1 (2): 133–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Parker, S.K., and C.M. Axtell. 2001. Seeing another viewpoint: Antecedents and outcomes of employee perspective taking. Academy of Management Journal 44 (6): 1085–1100.Google Scholar
  67. Phelan, M.T., and H. Sarkissian. 2008. The folk strike back; or, why you didn’t do it intentionally, though it was bad and you knew it. Philosophical Studies 138 (2): 291–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Pollai, M., and E. Kirchler. 2012. Differences in risk-defusing behavior in deciding for oneself versus deciding for other people. Acta Psychologica 139 (1): 239–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Robinson, B., P. Stey, and M. Alfano. 2015. Reversing the side-effect effect: The power of salient norms. Philosophical Studies 172 (1): 177–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Rose, D., and J. Schaffer. 2013. Knowledge entails dispositional belief. Philosophical Studies 166 (1): 19–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Schwitzgebel, E., and F. Cushman. 2012. Expertise in moral reasoning? Order effects on moral judgment in professional philosophers and non-philosophers. Mind & Language 27 (2): 135–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Schwitzgebel, E., and F. Cushman. 2015. Philosophers’ biased judgments persist despite training, expertise and reflection. Cognition 141: 127–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Siewert, C. 2012. On the phenomenology of introspection. In Introspection and Consciousness, eds. D. Smithies and D. Stoljar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  74. Smith, A. 1790/2002. The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  75. Sverdlik, S. 2004. Intentionality and moral judgments in commonsense thought about action. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology 24 (2): 224–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Takaku, S., B. Weiner, and K.-I. Ohbuchi. 2001. A cross-cultural examination of the effects of apology and perspective taking on forgiveness. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 20 (1–2): 144–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Turri, J. 2014. The problem of ESEE knowledge. Ergo 1 (4): 101–127.Google Scholar
  78. Turri, J. 2016. Knowledge judgments in “Gettier” cases. In A Companion to Experimental Philosophy, eds. J. Sytsma and W. Buckwalter, 335–348. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  79. Uttich, K., and T. Lombrozo. 2010. Norms inform mental state ascriptions: A rational explanation for the side-effect effect. Cognition 116 (1): 87–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Weijers, D. 2014. Nozick's Experience machine is dead, long live the experience machine! Philosophical Psychology 27 (4): 513–535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Weinberg, J.M., J. Alexander, C. Gonnerman, and S. Reuter. 2012. Restrictionism and reflection: Challenge deflected, or simply redirected? The Monist 95 (2): 200–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Williamson, T. 2002. Knowledge and its Limits. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of History & Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

Personalised recommendations